The Maldives and Japan on Sunday signed an agreement for a Japanese grant of $ 7.6 million to be extended to the Maldives Coast Guard and the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Center, an official press release from Male said.
Coming less than three months after the signing of the ‘Framework for U.S. Department of Defence-Maldives Ministry of Defence Defence and Security Relationship’, the “grant aid” is the Maldives’s second major pact with a member of the ‘Quad’, an informal strategic grouping of U.S., Japan, Australia and India. The member countries’ Foreign Ministers met in Tokyo last month and held discussions, including on ways to counter Chinese presence and influence in the region.
The Indian Ocean archipelago, that is home to nearly 4 lakh people, assumes geopolitical significance, owing to its strategic location. Sunday’s deal, according to the official press release, will be utilised to further strengthen the capabilities of the Maldives Coast Guard, the country’s Maritime Rescue and Coordination Center, Sub-Regional Centers and Vessels. “This includes the provision of communications equipment, professional search and rescue dive equipment,” the statement said.
Following the ceremony held to mark the signing – between the Maldivian government and the resident Japanese envoy — Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla spoke of the “close relations” the Maldives enjoys with Japan, and the need for coordinated action in combating piracy, countering violent extremism and narco-trafficking, and “to ensure a free and open Indian Ocean that would bring about peace and prosperity to the region.”
New Delhi, according to diplomatic sources, views the development as a positive one, as it did when Washington and Male earlier signed the defence pact that focusses on maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean, besides promoting a rules-based order that promotes stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Departing from its earlier reservations to other big powers expanding its strategic presence in the region, India had welcomed the Maldives’s first military agreement with the US, the island nation’s first with a country other than India.
Sunday’s ‘Exchange of Notes’, as Tokyo terms its official development assistance to partners, falls under the Economic and Social Development Programme of the Government of Japan.
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